In a small attempt at balancing out this month’s coverage of able-bodied women, today I want to recognize two women who have overcome some significant challenges to achieve their success: Dr. Temple Grandin and Tammy Duckworth.
I first became familiar with Temple Grandin through the eponymous movie starring
Claire Danes, which won several Emmys. Grandin was born with autism in the 1940s, well before awareness campaigns and research made it a household word. Even today, autism spectrum conditions are not well understood by the general public, so that was Grandin’s main problem, I think. There was never anything really wrong with her — she earned her doctorate in animal science, she’s a professor at Colorado State University, she’s an expert on autism and as a pioneer in animal behavior, she consults for the livestock industry — she is just different. Clearly she is brilliant, but as she says, she thinks in pictures, not verbal language, and her challenges have come from learning to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her. Read more on Grandin and watch a talk she gave at a TED conference last year at Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds.
Duckworth works as an assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Obama with Tammy Duckworth
She herself is in the military. As a result of her service in the Iraq war, after an attack when she was co-piloting a Black Hawk helicopter, she lost both of her legs and partial use of an arm. She was awarded a Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the Combat Action Badge. Just two years after that, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. She narrowly lost but has continued to be active in public life. She has refused medical retirement so she can continue serving in the Illinois National Guard; she speaks fluent Thai and Indonesian; and she completed the Chicago Marathon in 2008 and 2009. She’s inspirational, to say the least.
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It’s pretty obvious if you follow politics that “pro-life” is a convenient frame for Republicans (and some Democrats) to use to get support from anti-abortion activists. However, although they oppose abortion, they don’t vote for bills that would support maternal health care and make for healthier babies and families.
For example, a bill in Nebraska that cut funding for undocumented mothers to receive prenatal care has resulted in at least five deaths:
The elimination one year ago of Medicaid funding for prenatal care for about 1,600 low-income women has had dramatic effects, doctors and health clinic administrators reported Wednesday. At least five babies have died. Women are traveling 155 miles to get prenatal care. Babies have been delivered at clinics, in ambulances and hospital emergency rooms.
… Four infants died in utero at the Columbus health center, she said. In the previous seven years, the clinic had never had an in utero death.
And the House GOP is also proposing cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would reduce funding for immunizations that save babies’ lives:
In the past year, California has experienced the worst whooping cough outbreak in more than 50 years, an epidemic that has killed 10 infants and resulted in 6,400 reported cases. But even as the state’s public health officials have struggled to curb the disease, Republicans in Congress have proposed slashing millions in federal funding for immunization programs. Public health advocates warn that these cuts threaten efforts across the country to prevent and contain infectious and sometimes fatal diseases. And they add that lower vaccination rates could eventually result in more outbreaks that endanger public health at a major cost to taxpayers.
Clearly, what people who claim to be “pro-life” really mean is they are anti-abortion. No one who truly values life would make cuts that threaten the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society. So the next time someone tells you he is “pro-life,” ask what he’s doing to make sure wanted babies have every chance of getting a healthy start at life.
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